Affordable swine flu vaccine that never made it

January 29, 2015 07:48 am | Updated November 28, 2021 09:42 pm IST - HYDERABAD:

The death of over 30 persons in two months and a spate of swine flu cases have forced the public in Hyderabad to go for vaccine shots by spending anywhere between Rs. 450 and Rs. 1,000 per shot. Those who can afford are able to access the vaccine, but the vast majority who can’t are anxious about the safety of their near and dear ones.

Ironically, do you know that the swine flu vaccine could have been made available for just Rs. 100 in Hyderabad? Could the lives of over 30 people lost been saved if governments, both Centre and State, promoted indigenous flu vaccine?

CMD, Bharat Biotech, Dr. Krishna Ella says the deaths could have been prevented. “Authorities effectively killed the Indian swine flu vaccine after promoting it initially. They backed out leaving millions of unsold swine flu vaccines in 2010-11. We could have offered a better version of H1N1 vaccine for just Rs. 100 and lives could have been saved,” he rues.

At present, H1N1 vaccines being given in Hyderabad are imported. Ironically, the cell culture vaccine of Bharat Biotech was manufactured at Genome Valley in Hyderabad in 2010-11. “The GOI had given three Indian pharma companies nearly Rs. 10 crore to manufacture affordable vaccine when swine flu was at its peak and people were dying. Later, they pulled the plug and we even returned the money,” he said.

Along with Bharat Bio-tech, Serum Institute, Pune and Panacea Biotech, New Delhi were to produce indigenous swine flu vaccine. However, after the peak of 2009 and 2010, the cases of swine flu cases started to dip and the need for a vaccine was not felt, doctors privy to the issue said. In 2010-11, millions of doses of indigenous H1N1 vaccines were destroyed because there were no takers. They were produced in the hope that government agencies would stock them for health care workers and public would get vaccinated for prevention.

“Look what’s happening now. Swine flu cases are going up, there is loss of life and winter will be long in North India. We could have saved lives. Decision makers should have vision,” he added.

Indian companies could have made shots available for Rs. 100 had the government encouraged them

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